Whether you’re a beginner looking for easy tunes to learn or an experienced player seeking new challenges, this article will guide you through the 30 most beautiful (in our opinion) songs played on guitar.
From rock anthems like “The Top Gun Anthem” to ballads like “Crying” by Joe Satriani and “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton to modern hits like “Seven Nation Army” by Jack White, these songs span different eras and genres, showcasing the instrument’s timeless appeal.
So grab your guitar and get ready to strum along to these crowd-pleasing favorites.
1. Titanic Theme – Celine Dion
“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion is composed by James Horner and written by Will Jennings. It was released in 1997 as the theme song for the movie Titanic.
It went on to become one of Celine Dion’s biggest hits, winning several awards including the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
2. Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer & Steve Stevens
“Top Gun Anthem” is an instrumental rock composition by Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens. It serves as the theme for the Top Gun media franchise adding to the film’s high-energy and intense atmosphere.
It became a popular instrumental hit and is often associated with the film’s iconic aerial sequences.
3. The Pink Panther Theme – Henry Mancini
“The Pink Panther Theme” is a jazz composition written by the legendary Henry Mancini for the classic film The Pink Panther in 1963. This catchy and playful melody has become one of Mancini’s most iconic compositions.
When played on guitar, the song takes on a new dimension, adding a touch of humor and charm. The jazzy chords and smooth melody lines of the guitar bring a cool and suave quality to the tune.
4. Mission Impossible Theme – Lalo Schifrin
The iconic “Mission: Impossible” theme tune was composed by Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin for the popular TV series of the same name. This spy-themed classic is instantly recognizable and filled with suspense and intensity.
In the guitar version of the theme, the sharp and precise riffs capture the tension and excitement of the original, creating a thrilling rendition that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats.
5. Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” is a song by British new wave music duo Eurythmics. A synth-pop classic with a dark and hypnotic vibe.
It was released by British new wave music duo Eurythmics in 1983 and became a chart-topping hit in many countries, helping establish the duo’s success.
6. Crying – Joe Satriani
“Crying” is a well-known track by acclaimed instrumental rock guitarist Joe Satriani. Known for his virtuosic playing style, Satriani showcases his technical skills and melodic sensibilities in this soulful instrumental composition.
The song takes listeners on an emotive journey as Satriani’s melodic and expressive solos are backed by a dynamic rhythm section. What sets “Crying” apart is the long guitar solo played through a box, which adds a unique and captivating sound to the piece.
7. Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton
“Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton is a timeless ballad that oozes romance and tenderness. Released in 1977, the song is a romantic ballad written by Eric Clapton for his then-wife Pattie Boyd.
It has since become one of Clapton’s signature songs and is often played at weddings and special occasions. The song features a restrained but emotional guitar solo that adds to its beauty and charm
8. Jungle – Tash Sultana
Tash Sultana is an Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who specializes in the genres of alternative rock and psychedelic rock. She is known for her unique blend of indie rock, reggae, and psychedelic sounds.
Sultana began playing guitar at the age of three and has since mastered over 20 instruments, including the flute, percussion, and saxophone.
“Jungle” is a mesmerizing and genre-blending song that showcases their incredible musical talent. With intricate guitar loops, soulful vocals, and a captivating groove, the track takes listeners on a sonic journey through lush melodies and rhythmic layers, creating a vibrant and immersive jungle-like atmosphere.
9. Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s
“Hey There Delilah” is a song by the American rock band Plain White T’s. The song was released in 2006 and became a massive hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The song is a simple acoustic ballad that tells the story of a long-distance relationship between the singer and a girl named Delilah. The song’s lyrics are heartfelt and romantic, and the melody is catchy and easy to sing along to.
The song has been covered by many artists and has been used in numerous TV shows and movies.
10. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
“Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes is a rock anthem that has captivated audiences since its release in 2003. The song is instantly recognizable due to its infectious and unforgettable guitar riff, which has become legendary in the world of music.
The song has since become one of the band’s most popular and recognizable songs. It’s known for its distinctive guitar riff and has been covered by many artists in various genres.
The song has transcended genres, appealing to both rock enthusiasts and casual listeners alike.
11. Every Breath You Take – The Police
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police is a haunting melody that was released in 1983 and became one of their biggest hits. The song is often misinterpreted as a love song, but it is actually about obsession and possessiveness.
The song’s simple yet effective structure, combined with its emotional lyrics, has made it a classic in the rock genre. “Every Breath You Take” showcases The Police’s talent for crafting emotionally charged music that leaves a lasting impact.
Its popularity remains strong, firmly establishing it as one of the band’s defining hits in the rock genre.
12. Take My Breath Away – Berlin
“Take My Breath Away” by Berlin is a romantic ballad that became a huge hit, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
This song was the main theme for the 1986 film “Top Gun.” Sung by Berlin, it became a huge success and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
With its gentle fingerpicking and melodic lines, the guitar evokes a sense of longing and tenderness, enhancing the emotional depth of the original.
13. Godfather Theme – Nino Rota
The “Godfather Theme” is the instrumental piece composed by Nino Rota for the iconic 1972 film, The Godfather. This hauntingly beautiful melody has become synonymous with the mafia genre and is instantly recognizable to audiences worldwide.
With its use in the film’s opening sequence and throughout the trilogy, the “Godfather Theme” has achieved legendary status. In the guitar version of this timeless theme, the essence and grandeur of the original are retained.
The rich and expressive guitar tones capture the dramatic intensity associated with the Godfather series, offering a captivating rendition that pays homage to the iconic music of the films.
14. Pirates of the Caribbean Theme – Hans Zimmer
The Pirates of the Caribbean theme, composed by Hans Zimmer, is a swashbuckling and adventurous instrumental piece that has become synonymous with the film series. Its simple yet effective structure, combined with its spirited melody, has made it a favorite among listeners.
When played on the guitar, this epic theme takes on a new dimension of excitement and adventure. The fast-paced fingerpicking technique, dynamic chord progressions, and occasional harmonics bring to life the thrill of high-seas escapades.
15. Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis Presley
“Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley is a timeless classic that has been covered by countless artists throughout the years. This iconic love ballad has a slow and romantic feel, making it the perfect choice for weddings and intimate moments.
The fingerpicked guitar captures the song’s romantic melody while adding delicate embellishments that enhance its emotional impact. It’s an excellent choice for beginners who want to learn fingerstyle guitar and captivate audiences with a beloved classic
16. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
“Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen was originally released in 1984 and has since become one of the most widely recognized and emotionally powerful songs in the world. Its haunting and melancholic feel, combined with Cohen’s poignant lyrics, has touched the hearts of millions.
This soulful ballad features a fingerpicking guitar part that perfectly complements Cohen’s deep and powerful vocals. The fingerstyle arrangement of this song captures its emotional depth and delivers a hauntingly beautiful rendition.
The intricate fingerpicking patterns bring out the song’s nuances, allowing the guitarist to convey the raw emotions that make “Hallelujah” such an impactful piece.
17. Nothing Else Matters – Metallica
“Nothing Else Matters” is a power ballad by American heavy metal band Metallica, released in 1992 as the third single from their self-titled fifth studio album. The song was written by James Hetfield and is about missing his then-girlfriend while on tour.
The song peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, number 6 on the UK Singles Chart, and number 1 in Denmark. The guitar parts in “Nothing Else Matters” are a significant aspect of the song’s emotional depth and fragility.
The song features an arpeggiated chord progression in E minor, showcasing James Hetfield’s finger-picking skills.
19. Do I Wanna Know – Arctic Monkey
This song is a mesmerizing rock ballad that showcases the band’s ability to create a dark and moody atmosphere. Written and composed by frontman Alex Turner, the song features a prominent distorted guitar part that hooks listeners from the very beginning.
Turner’s brooding vocals perfectly complement the song’s introspective lyrics, creating a captivating and emotional listening experience. With its infectious riff and haunting melodies, “Do I Wanna Know” has become one of Arctic Monkeys’ signature songs.
And so, cementing their place as one of the most influential rock acts of recent years.
20. Love of My Life – Queen
“Love of My Life” by Queen, written and composed by Freddie Mercury, is a beautiful ballad that serves as a tribute to his then-girlfriend Mary Austin. The song was featured on Queen’s iconic 1975 album, “A Night at the Opera.”
Over the years, it has become a classic love song and is often performed live by Queen’s guitarist Brian May. Many guitarists have covered this timeless ballad, showcasing its enduring popularity. With its nostalgic and sentimental feel, “Love of My Life” evokes powerful emotions.
21. Miserlou – Dick Dale
Dick Dale was an American musician known as the “King of Surf Guitar.” He was born to Lebanese and Polish-Belarusian immigrants and was familiar with Arabian and Mediterranean music. Dale’s version of the song “Miserlou” popularized the song in Western popular culture.
The song was originally a folk song from the Eastern Mediterranean region, and the original author of the song is not known. Dale was challenged by an audience member to play a song on only one string of his guitar, and he quickly played “Misirlou,” a well-known folk song on his Fender.
22. Let Her Go – Passenger
“Let Her Go” by Passenger (Michael Rosenberg) took the world by storm when it was released in 2012. A poignant ballad that explores themes of heartbreak and moving on, this song struck a chord with listeners around the globe.
With its melancholic and reflective feel, “Let Her Go” embraces emotions of sadness and contemplation. The fingerpicking guitar part serves as a foundation for Passenger’s emotive vocals, adding an introspective quality to the composition.
23. Asturias – Isaac Albeniz
Asturias (Leyenda) is a musical work by the Spanish composer and pianist Isaac Albéniz. It was originally written for the piano and set in the key of G minor.
The piece lasts around six minutes in performance and was first published in Barcelona, by Juan Bta. Pujol & Co., in 1892 as the prelude of a three-movement set entitled Chants d’Espagne.
The piece is noted for the delicate, intricate melody of its middle section and abrupt dynamic changes. Albéniz’s biographer, Walter Aaron Clark, describes the piece as “pure Andalusian flamenco”.
24. Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughn
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version of “Little Wing” is an instrumental track, featuring his signature guitar playing. It was originally written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967.
Vaughan’s version of the song is a tribute to Hendrix, and he stays true to the original melody and structure of the song while adding his own unique style and flair. Vaughan’s version of “Little Wing” won him a posthumous Grammy in 1992 after the track appeared on the 1991 album The Sky Is Crying.
The guitar playing in Vaughan’s version of the song is highly technical and requires a good understanding of scales and arpeggios. Vaughan’s playing is known for its speed, precision, and soulful expression.
25. Nadia – Jeff Beck
“Nadia” by Jeff Beck is an instrumental track that showcases the incredible talent and virtuosity of the guitarist. Released on his 1976 album “Wired,” the song was written by Beck and his keyboardist Max Middleton.
With a fusion of rock, jazz, and funk styles, “Nadia” features a prominent synthesizer riff that sets the tone for the energetic and fast-paced composition. The guitar part takes center stage, with Beck delivering intricate and awe-inspiring solos throughout.
With its fusion of genres and mesmerizing guitar work, “Nadia” remains a standout in Jeff Beck’s discography and a testament to his exceptional musicianship.
26. Amazing Grace – John Newton
This hymn, written by John Newton in the late 18th century, has become one of the most recognizable and beloved songs in the English-speaking world. Its timeless message of redemption and hope has made it a staple at funerals and religious gatherings.
This song is a classic hymn that has a reverent and spiritual feel. It features a simple guitar part and is often sung in a slow and solemn manner.
27. Star Spangled Banner
“The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States of America. Written by Francis Scott Key in 1814 during the War of 1812, the iconic lyrics are set to the melody of a British song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.”
The song is deeply symbolic and is traditionally performed at patriotic events and sporting competitions. Its grand and majestic nature is accentuated by a soaring melody that evokes a sense of unity and national pride.
“The Star-Spangled Banner” holds a special place in American culture, symbolizing the strength and resilience of the nation.
28. Moonflower – Santana
“Moonflower” is the title track of Santana’s 1977 double album. This song showcases Carlos Santana’s extraordinary guitar skills and the band’s ability to blend Latin, rock, and jazz styles seamlessly.
The guitar part in “Moonflower” is particularly captivating, featuring Santana’s signature sound that combines virtuosity with raw emotion. The song exhibits a dreamy and atmospheric quality, starting with a slow and melodic guitar intro that gradually builds into an energetic and rhythmic section.
29. Return to the Alamo – The Shadows
“Return to the Alamo” is a song by the British instrumental rock group The Shadows. It was released in 1963 as a single and later included in their album “Dance with The Shadows”. The song features a catchy melody with a western-style guitar riff and a driving beat.
The Shadows were known for their innovative use of guitar effects and “Return to the Alamo” is no exception, featuring a distinctive tremolo effect on the guitar. The song was a commercial success, reaching number 5 on the UK Singles Chart.
It remains a popular instrumental rock classic and a testament to The Shadows’ influence on the genre.
30. California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas
“California Dreamin'” is a song written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips in 1963 and first recorded by Barry McGuire. The best-known version is by The Mamas & the Papas, who sang backup on the original version and released it as a single in December 1965.
The song expresses the narrator’s longing for the warmth of Los Angeles during a cold winter in New York City. The song is recorded in the key of C-sharp minor and features a distinctive opening guitar riff.
It was certified as a Gold Record (single) by the RIAA in June 1966 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. The song has been covered by many artists and is #89 in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Whether it’s Tash Sultana’s mesmerizing looping and guitar skills on “Jungle,” or the iconic guitar riff on “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, each song on the list has highlighted the guitar’s ability to create a unique and memorable sound.
Each guitar version on this list has its own set of emotions to be expressed and technical challenges to be overcome, that are invaluable to the budding guitarist.
Whether it’s the tender nostalgia of a beloved childhood theme or the raw emotion of a heartrending melody, there is no better feeling than learning to play it on the guitar and experience it for yourself.
So I encourage you to pick up your instrument and try out the songs on this list that you resonate with.
Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.